Seahawks Insider Blog

Morning links: Views on head trauma vary

Good morning.

As you've likely seen in the two prior posts, I wrote about how Larry Fitzgerald handled those two crackback blocks against the Seahawks last Thursday.

You can read my story on all that here.

You can also read my discussion with former Seahawk  Dave Wyman about the topic here.

In this post, I wanted to add some more of the conversations I had with guys for the story, plus a long explanation from Pete Carroll about how he thinks the view of head trauma in the league has evolved over the last 15-20 years.

We'll start with the players. Most notable to me among the comments were a couple thoughts from center Max Unger, one of the smartest and most well-informed guys on the team.

"I don’t want to play this game too long," Unger said. "Get a higher percentage of some form of concussion-related brain damage.

"It’s definitely scary, I try not to watch any of the stuff about it."

That perspective out of an NFL lockerroom for a Pro Bowl player I thought was telling. In addition, it's a similar take to Richard Sherman saying players know the risk and subsequently accept them, but just phrased differently.

Here's some more thoughts from Carroll, Unger, Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor:

Max UngerHave you had a concussion? It seems a lot of the impact at the line of scrimmage is overlooked in this discussion) "I had one concussion in college. We’re more of the repeated hits. We don’t get the big collisions. It’s still there. It’s still something that we think about. I don’t want to play this game too long. Get a higher percentage of some form of concussion-related brain damage. It’s definitely scary, I try not to watch any of the stuff about it."

Are you familiar with Mike Webster?) "I know who he is. That’s stuff that’s pretty scary. Those guys were a different type of football player. I know our training staff does their best to prevent you from getting to that situation. It’s pretty real."

What’s the balance between between having your bell rung and staying on the field as a tough football player?) "It’s something that league and our trainers have educated us about quite a bit. We’re trying to get rid of that mentality, even though it is tough … play through everything mentality. You know when you have a concussion. It’s pretty obvious. It’s just kind of up to you. It always and forever will be on the player to determine how hard and how far he wants to push it."

Kam ChancellorDid you seen the fines for Brandon Meriweather and does that change how you approach big hits?) "I heard about it, I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t change my perspective at all. I’m not a guy that wants to go out there and hurt anybody. I’m a guy that just wants to dislodge the ball from you. I understand the rules. The main thing you have to focus on getting your head up out of the play and use that shoulder. You have to use that shoulder to the best of your ability."

Do you worry about how the league is handling big hits or do you understand there is a concern about player safety?) "I understand they want to protect the players, but this game is hard, man. It’s a violent game. Guys play hard, a lot of the helmet-to-helmet hits aren’t intentional. It’s just bang-bang plays. I understand they want to protect everybody, but it’s just hard. Guys are going to keep getting fined and there’s nothing they can do about it for real.

Did you see Fitzgerald last week not blow up Thurmond and Sherman?) "If it was me, the way I play this game, I’m a physical guy. I’m going to try to lay you out. I’m not going to aim at your head, I’m going to hit you in the strike zone, but I am going to try and lay you out.

"I don’t know what was going through his head … I can’t think for nobody else, can’t really talk for anybody else. He could have not been going hard or he could have been looking out. I can’t really say anything about that play."

Are you surprised to see that on an NFL field?) Yeah. It is surprising. Even if you’re cool with that guy, it is surprising. It’s still in the game, you’re adrenaline is pumping and you’re hyped up. I am kind of surprised about that.”

Doug BaldwinSherman wrote he thought the NFL was the problem) "The NFL is not worried about concussions.

The NFL is worried about their pocketbooks. They would not have made any changes if the previous players didn’t sue them. That’s my 100 percent belief."

How much do you guys think about it and that balance between being safe and playing no matter what?) "We’re intelligent. We know when we can play and when we can’t. There’s sometimes when you get a little stinger and your realize give me a couple minutes."

Do you look at what happened with Junior Seau as an indication of long-term accumulation and it's effects?) "As long as football has been going on, there’s got to be more to it than just concussions."

Carroll's answer when asked how the view of head trauma has evolved in the league over the last 15-20 years)“It has come a million miles. From the dark days when nobody would ever acknowledge it or talk about it, the players all would ignore it, the coaches would ignore it telling them to shake it off, and you’d see guys shaking their head like they’re literally trying to shake it off, which is the worst thing you could do you know.

"We didn’t have any idea of what it took to get back, we weren’t tuned into the symptoms that you could see. I’ve learned now that you could look at a guy three or four days after a legit concussion, and you can see it in his eyes that there is something that is not right in the way they respond. We’re just so much more aware of it, and I think it’s fantastic new understanding that we have, but we’re still growing with it and there is still the warrior mentality of the players that exists that I totally can relate to and understand why they think the way they think. Through proper education and awareness we’ve come a long, long ways. Hopefully the technology will continue to grow.

"The awareness of the players and the way they play is really changing, it’s really shifting. It’s clear our game is not the same as it was, and it’s still okay, it’s fine. We’re going in the right direction, we’re doing the right things, we’re making the right choices, the players are declaring in the flash of a moment on how to adjust so that they don’t take that shot. It still happens sometimes because you just can’t avoid some of them. I would think that we’re going in the direction that we’re really going to see a change in the numbers of injuries and the severity of them, for all of the reasons. I think the league has realized how much we have to step it up, and now it’s still our efforts to continue to teach.

"I sent some stuff into the league office this week to demonstrate to them where are guys are showing that they do understand better and they’re making those choices. In a poised moment a guy could knock a guy out. Let me just tell you this, I sent in two plays that Larry Fitzgerald had. Those are just two plays that I thought jumped off the film, and jumped off of the game film. I said something to Larry after the game about those two decisions that he made because I thought they were perfectly illustrating the new mentality and the right mentality. With an iconic guy like that I just thought it was really powerful. So I sent those plays to the league just to make that statement. Let’s teach and demonstrate the guys are turning the corner, and they do get it and they do understand. That message should go throughout the league, throughout college football, down to the young kids that are playing, where we can see the game can be played differently, and still really good with great results, and still a very aggressive tough game.

"I was really fired up about that illustration because it just jumped off the field, and I was amazed that it was so obvious. He’s such a great player, and a great competitor, and a tough dude would make those decisions so obviously and right in front of us. It’s still a big hit, but it could’ve been a colossal collision had he taken full advantage of the opportunity, and he didn’t. in an instant his poise, and jus his makeup and character demonstrated that he understands, and he did that. Richard Sherman still got hit pretty good. Walter Thurmond got hit, but that was even a not as severe hit. So that’s really cool stuff, and that’s where the league is going, and that’s what we all need to understand, and that will have ramification long after for what you’re talking about, about the head traumas and all of that. We can do it.

"There was a time when this first was shifting, and I was at the Jets years ago and we had a bye week and Bill Polian and Paul Tagliabue and some other guys had a session and they were talking about one of the coaches that we’re going to play against Chuck Cecil and his play. I got called into the office to talk about these violent hits that were happening and Chuck was a mean son of a gun, he was as tough as you get. There was a time where the coaches and the players couldn’t even fathom the thought that we were being restricted in the way we play because that was the only way we understood the game to play. We’ve evolved a million miles since then. I’m not sure what year that was, but it was that long ago that they were trying to start to figure this thing out, and how they can control it. It’s taken all of this time until now to really see the game shift.

"I don’t think it shifted until the last two or three years though. I think it’s the last two or three years that it’s really shifted and the awareness and guys understand. Guys like Kam Chancellor can be as physical and tough as anybody in football, and make the right decisions, and still hit guys. Make the plays that are necessary and keep the game safe. It’s a really exciting time. I would never think I’d be saying this from where I was because I was cheering for Chuck Cecil. I thought he was awesome, he was one of my favorite guys. I see the game different now.”


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